WASHINGTON – Afghans significantly increased their poppy crop in the past year, fueling a narcotics (search) trade that endangers U.S.-led efforts to stabilize the country, officials said Thursday.
A report expected in a few weeks from the CIA and United Nations is expected to show Afghans planted 100,000 hectares with the crop, up from 80,000 hectares last year, said assistant secretary of state Robert B. Charles, head of the Bureau for International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs (search).
"The past year witnessed record levels of poppy cultivation in areas previously not used for this purpose," Peter Rodman, assistant defense secretary for international affairs, said at a congressional hearing with Charles.
"We know that profits from the production of illegal narcotics flow into the coffers of warlord militias, corrupt government officials and extremist forces," Rodman said in a written statement for the House International Relations Committee hearing on the Oct. 9 Afghan elections.
Committee Chairman Rep. Henry Hyde, R-Ill (search)., criticized the administration for not moving faster against a drug trade that threatens efforts to build a stable Afghan government. "The drug lords are getting stronger faster than the Afghan authorities are being built up," he said.
Ranking Democrat Tom Lantos (search) of California repeated previous criticism of NATO (search) for not contributing more troops, saying it threatens to turn Afghan's "potentially triumphant exercise of freedom" into "a tragedy with dozens of terror attacks against polling stations."